French Lessons: Le Pediluve

This week I decided that if you ever want to know what it feels like to be an Olympian you need go no further than the French swimming pool. Each time I go my mind is a bit blown by the sheer lack of speed and innovation in swimming strokes that witness visit after vist. It was so awesome to watch the French swimmers medal at the Olympics, because on the rarest of occasions (ok, twice) have I found anyone who can challenge me in the pool. In any case, I continue to go and be mystified by surroundings, which extends to the rituals of getting to the swimming pool. One of the standard operations in any swim is a stroll through le pediluve. I wish I knew the translation in English, but I’ll just say it’s a couple inch standing pool of water that you must walk through before entering the pool area. Sometimes it’s cold, sometimes there’s stuff floating in it, but either way, I’d definitely recommend les tongs (flip-flops) for any visit.

Looking to venture to a Paris swimming pool? You can find the full list here (warning: there’s been a partial strike all summer and some are closed for work) and my guide to Paris pools.

In slightly related terms involving speedos, check out the animated gif for un bronzage cyclist. And speaking of speedos, don’t miss this hilarious story about speedos out of the US by my friend James Magruder.

French Lessons is an ongoing series where I teach you French words and cultural lessons while beefing up my Illustrator skills.


  • Pédiluve in English is quite simply ‘footbath’. They have always existed in England as far as I remember.

    They may look a little dirty, but they are regularly topped up with germ-killing products, so as long as you don’t drink from them you should be ok.

    As for being too fast for the pool, why don’t you join a club? They have dedicated hours at a number of pools around Paris, and you might be able to actually join in a few races!

  • Thanks for the definition, Adam!

    I’m actually looking for a swim team to join this fall. Clubs are far more expensive than the passes I buy, but may need to splurge. I just think it’s funny that for the longest time I never realized there were swim teams because the lifeguards never once volunteered the info (something I would always do in my days as a lifeguard). In the meantime, I still get a lot of humor out of my time at the pools!


  • Thanks a lot for sharing your experience, I had so much fun reading it :)

    Like Adam said, “pédiluve” is a killing germs solution, not dirty standing water !!

    Concerning the competitivness of swimmers, there are to things that can explain it : First, “real swimmers” are in swim clubs, they train on special hours, outside of public schedule. Second thing, swimming is not really popular here and people go to the pool to relax are to play with the kids.

    See you at the pool !

  • Julien, as soon as I get settled into my apt, I’m checking out clubs. It really blows my mind that ALL good swimmers would only do club. In the US former swimmers may just want to go swim laps, and quite frankly the 8 year olds I taught to swim are faster than many I see in the “fast” lanes here… Some of the pédiluves I’ve been through seem cleaner than others. Just another foreign concept to folks like me ;)

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